My children are always telling me Iím ďdeafĒ because I donít understand their slurred words heavy with slang. I donít want to be a curmudgeon, so I went to have my hearing tested: it turns out my ears are "normal," but the doctor warned me to be careful and avoid too much noise pollution like iPods and jet engines.
OK, I prefer classical music and don't work at an airport.
All kidding aside, studies are warning that we're all ruining our hearing with iPods and other music sources, but that's a topic for another discussion.
Two of the biggest noise sources in my life were my spray hood exhaust fan and my Paasche D500 compressor. I say "were" because I got rid of the compressor. Instead of it hammering away constantly, I now have a much-quieter Grex AC1810-A compressor. Not is it less noisy, it turns itself off when not being used continuously.
features & specs
According to Grex, the AC1810-A has the following features:
Oil-less piston (relatively common in today's compressor)
Moisture trap (sometimes extra in cheaper compressors)
Automatic shut-off ability
Carry handle bar
Integrated airbrush holder for quick access and storage (moderately interesting since I don't keep my compressor next to me)
Manual on/off switch.
For those of you who are pulling out your slide-rules as you read this:
Type: Piston Type Compressor
Horse Power: 1/8 HP
Displacement: 0.7 cfm (20 L/min)
Speed: 1700 rpm
Max. Pressure: 60 psi (4.1 bar)
Weight: 11 lbs. (4.5kg)
Power: 115V / 0.96 A / 60 Hz
The compressor comes ready-to-work with a 12 foot coiled black PVC air hose, though I purchased a braided nylon hose for added strength-- and because I liked the matching green color.
Hey, let's not admit to our wives that such things sometimes sway us.
I wasnít planning on purchasing a new compressor until I stumbled upon the Grex table at the recent MosquitoCon model show in NJ. Initially I was focused on their Tritium TG airbrush (reviewed by me here
), but when I saw and heard (or more accurately, didnít hear) the AC1810-A, I bought one, too. Not only was it quieter than my old Paasche D500, its auto shut-off feature immediately got my attention. The hammering piston of my Paasche would leave my head pounding after a few hours of painting. Plus I like to listen to music when I model, and Classical was plainly outó even Led Zeppelin was hit-or-miss once I got the spray hood fan and compressor going in tandem.
Auto shut-off isnít exclusive to Grex; many of the newer compressors feature it, too. For those traditionalists who worry it will compromise air flow, let me assure you the AC1810-A puts out a constant amount of air when called upon. Whenever the system falls below a certain pressure, the compressor clicks on and refills a chamber. If youíre doing a lot of painting, it tends to stay on; less, and it shuts off. Thatís fabulous in my opinion.
The shutting-on and shutting-off will annoy some of you, and in truth, I wish Grex could find a way to suppress some of the noise from that process (see how we humans get spoiled and then want more?). The compressor also generates some vibration cycling on and off, so you need to be careful where you place it, and not leave it on the edge of your workbench.
In addition, I like Grexís built-in moisture trap, which is still a $30 after-market purchase with my Paasche D500 two years later. I do my painting in my basement, and even with a dehumidifier, moisture was collecting in the air hose of my old rig before I got a moisture trap. In addition to bleeding off condensation that collect in the hose and spew out of the airbrush without warning, ruining a paint job, the traps are equipped with valves that regulate pressure flow.
However, Iíve switched to Grex's G-MAC Micro Air Control Quick Coupler Valve as the way to control air flow through-put. The valve has a thumbscrew at the base allowing for easy limiting of flow, and has fittings for Grex, Badger and Paasche hoses. The quick-connect couplers and adaptor ends allow you to switch airbrushes easily if you have more than one.
Finally, the Grex is more powerful than the Paasche(60 psi vs. 40), though I was uncertain whether anyone in the hobby needs
60 psi. I thought maybe it was for the cake decorators, but too much air would splatter all that spun sugar, so they don't need the extra oomph. The spray tanners? Actually, it's like having extra horsepower under your carís hood: you may not need the power driving around town, yet itís comforting to know you have the extra ponies in case you have to pull away from a truck on the highway. Not having to work its hardest all the time is also good for the compressor's longevity.
I contacted Grex, and they said higher pressures are good for the following reasons:
1.) to spray thicker paints or media
2.) to create a finer atomization for a smoother finish
3.) to increase paint output flow rate
4.) to allow the artist to move and work faster
I find I prefer higher pressures, but maybe it's just what I'm used to, since for years I sprayed directly from the air source without a pressure regulator.
The AC1810-A isnít for everyone, since itís also twice the price of my old Paasche. Some of you are still using canned air with your airbrush, so a compressor may be a luxury for the part-time hobbyist or young person starting out. But at this point, I figure I wonít need another compressor as long as I keep building kits.
In words my wife can understand, "I'm worth it."
The big question we all ask of any reviewer (besides educating us): is the item worth the money? At around $200, I donít think youíll find a better or quieter compressor. Given the assumption that most compressors can pump out a constant flow of air, the "intangibles" become the most-important consideration, and I'm totally happy with my Grex.